The project gutenberg e book of welsh fairy tales, by william elliot griffis
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Title: Welsh Fairy Tales
Author: William Elliot Griffis
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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WELSH FAIRY TALES ***
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Welsh Fairy Tales
WILLIAM ELLIOT GRIFFIS
A PREFACE-LETTER TO MY GRANDFATHER
DEAR CAPTAIN JOHN GRIFFIS:
Although I never saw you, since you died in 1804, I am glad you were
one of those Welshmen who opposed the policy of King George III and
that you, after coming to America in 1783, were among the first sea
captains to carry the American flag around the world. That you knew
many of the Free Quakers and other patriots of the Revolution and that
they buried you among them, near Benjamin Franklin, is a matter of
pride to your descendants. That you were born in Wales and spoke
Welsh, as did also those three great prophets of spiritual liberty,
Roger Williams, William Penn, and Thomas Jefferson, is still further
ground for pride in one's ancestry. Now, in the perspective of history
we see that our Washington and his compeers and Wilkes, Barre, Burke
and the friends of America in Parliament were fighting the same battle
of Freedom. Though our debt to Wales for many things is great, we
count not least those inheritances from the world of imagination, for
which the Cymric Land was famous, even before the days of either
Anglo-Saxon or Norman.
W. E. G.
Saint David's and the day of the Daffodil, March 1, 1921.
I. WELSH RABBIT AND HUNTED HARES
II. THE MIGHTY MONSTER AFANG
III. THE TWO CAT WITCHES
IV. HOW THE CYMRY LAND BECAME INHABITED
V. THE BOY THAT WAS NAMED TROUBLE
VI. THE GOLDEN HARP
VII. THE GREAT RED DRAGON OF WALES
VIII. THE TOUCH OF CLAY
IX. THE TOUCH OF IRON
X. THE MAIDEN OF THE GREEN FOREST
XI. THE TREASURE STONE OF THE FAIRIES
XII. GIANT TOM AND GIANT BLUBB
XIII. A BOY THAT VISITED FAIRYLAND
XIV. THE WELSHERY AND THE NORMANS
XV. THE WELSH FAIRIES HOLD A MEETING
XVI. KING ARTHUR'S CAVE
XVII. THE LADY OF THE LAKE
XVIII. THE KING'S FOOT HOLDER
XIX. POWELL, PRINCE OF DYFED
XX. POWELL AND HIS BRIDE
XXI. WHY THE BACK DOOR WAS FRONT
XXII. THE RED BANDITS OF MONTGOMERY
XXIII. THE FAIRY CONGRESS
XXIV. THE SWORD OF AVALON
WELSH RABBIT AND HUNTED HARES
Long, long ago, there was a good saint named David, who taught the
early Cymric or Welsh people better manners and many good things to
eat and ways of enjoying themselves.
Now the Welsh folks in speaking of their good teacher pronounced his
name Tafid and affectionately Taffy, and this came to be the usual
name for a person born in Wales. In our nurseries we all learned that
"Taffy was a Welshman," but it was their enemies who made a bad rhyme
Wherever there were cows or goats, people could get milk. So they
always had what was necessary for a good meal, whether it were
breakfast, dinner or supper. Milk, cream, curds, whey and cheese
enriched the family table. Were not these enough?
But Saint David taught the people how to make a still more delicious
food out of cheese, and that this could be done without taking the
life of any creature.
Saint David showed the girls how to take cheese, slice and toast it
over the coals, or melt it in a skillet and pour it hot over toast or
biscuit. This gave the cheese a new and sweeter flavor. When spread on
bread, either plain, or browned over the fire, the result, in
combination, was a delicacy fit for a king, and equal to anything
The fame of this new addition to the British bill of fare spread near
and far. The English people, who had always been fond of rabbit pie,
and still eat thousands of Molly Cotton Tails every day, named it
"Welsh Rabbit," and thought it one of the best things to eat. In fact,
there are many people, who do not easily see a joke, who misunderstand
the fun, or who suppose the name to be either slang, or vulgar, or a
mistake, and who call it "rarebit." It is like "Cape Cod turkey"
(codfish), or "Bombay ducks" (dried fish), or "Irish plums" (potatoes)
and such funny cookery with fancy names.
Now up to this time, the rabbits and hares had been so hunted with the
aid of dogs, that there was hardly a chance of any of them surviving
the cruel slaughter.
In the year 604, the Prince of Powys was out hunting. The dogs started
a hare, and pursued it into a dense thicket. When the hunter with the
horn came up, a strange sight met his eyes. There he saw a lovely
maiden. She was kneeling on the ground and devoutly praying. Though
surprised at this, the prince was anxious to secure his game. He
hissed on the hounds and ordered the horn to be blown, for the dogs to
charge on their prey, expecting them to bring him the game at once.
Instead of this, though they were trained dogs and would fight even a
wolf, they slunk away howling, and frightened, as if in pain, while
the horn stuck fast to the lips of the blower and he was silent.
Meanwhile, the hare nestled under the maiden's dress and seemed not in
the least disturbed.
Amazed at this, the prince turned to the fair lady and asked:
"Who are you?"
She answered, "My mother named me Monacella. I have fled from Ireland,
where my father wished to marry me to one of his chief men, whom I did
not love. Under God's guidance, I came to this secret desert place,
where I have lived for fifteen years, without seeing the face of man."
To this, the prince in admiration replied: "O most worthy Melangell
[which is the way the Welsh pronounce Monacella], because, on account
of thy merits, it has pleased God to shelter and save this little,
wild hare, I, on my part, herewith present thee with this land, to be
for the service of God and an asylum for all men and women, who seek
thy protection. So long as they do not pollute this sanctuary, let
none, not even prince or chieftain, drag them forth."
The beautiful saint passed the rest of her life in this place. At
night, she slept on the bare rock. Many were the wonders wrought for
those who with pure hearts sought her refuge. The little wild hares
were under her special protection, and they are still called
THE MIGHTY MONSTER AFANG
After the Cymric folk, that is, the people we call Welsh, had come up
from Cornwall into their new land, they began to cut down the trees,
to build towns, and to have fields and gardens. Soon they made the
landscape smile with pleasant homes, rich farms and playing children.
They trained vines and made flowers grow. The young folks made pets of
the wild animals' cubs, which their fathers and big brothers brought
home from hunting. Old men took rushes and reeds and wove them into
cages for song birds to live in.
While they were draining the swamps and bogs, they drove out the
monsters, that had made their lair in these wet places. These terrible
creatures liked to poison people with their bad breath, and even ate
up very little boys and girls, when they strayed away from home.
So all the face of the open country between the forests became very
pretty to look at. The whole of Cymric land, which then extended from
the northern Grampian Hills to Cornwall, and from the Irish Sea, past
their big fort, afterward called London, even to the edge of the
German Ocean, became a delightful place to live in.
The lowlands and the rivers, in which the tide rose and fell daily,
were especially attractive. This was chiefly because of the many
bright flowers growing there; while the yellow gorse and the pink
heather made the hills look as lovely as a young girl's face. Besides
this, the Cymric maidens were the prettiest ever, and the lads were
all brave and healthy; while both of these knew how to sing often and
Now there was a great monster named the Afang, that lived in a big
bog, hidden among the high hills and inside of a dark, rough forest.
This ugly creature had an iron-clad back and a long tail that could
wrap itself around a mountain. It had four front legs, with big knees
that were bent up like a grasshopper's, but were covered with scales
like armor. These were as hard as steel, and bulged out at the thighs.
Along its back, was a ridge of horns, like spines, and higher than an
alligator's. Against such a tough hide, when the hunters shot their
darts and hurled their javelins, these weapons fell down to the
ground, like harmless pins.
On this monster's head, were big ears, half way between those of a
jackass and an elephant. Its eyes were as green as leeks, and were
round, but scalloped on the edges, like squashes, while they were as
big as pumpkins.
The Afang's face was much like a monkey's, or a gorilla's, with long
straggling gray hairs around its cheeks like those of a walrus. It
always looked as if a napkin, as big as a bath towel, would be
necessary to keep its mouth clean. Yet even then, it slobbered a good
deal, so that no nice fairy liked to be near the monster.
When the Afang growled, the bushes shook and the oak leaves trembled
on the branches, as if a strong wind was blowing.
But after its dinner, when it had swallowed down a man, or two calves,
or four sheep, or a fat heifer, or three goats, its body swelled up
like a balloon. Then it usually rolled over, lay along the ground, or
in the soft mud, and felt very stupid and sleepy, for a long while.
All around its lair, lay wagon loads of bones of the creatures, girls,
women, men, boys, cows, and occasionally a donkey, which it had
But when the Afang was ravenously hungry and could not get these
animals and when fat girls and careless boys were scarce, it would
live on birds, beasts and fishes. Although it was very fond of cows
and sheep, yet the wool and hair of these animals stuck in its big
teeth, it often felt very miserable and its usually bad temper grew
Then, like a beaver, it would cut down a tree, sharpen it to a point
and pick its teeth until its mouth was clean. Yet it seemed all the
more hungry and eager for fresh human victims to eat, especially juicy
maidens; just as children like cake more than bread.
The Cymric men were not surprised at this, for they knew that girls
were very sweet and they almost worshiped women. So they learned to
guard their daughters and wives. They saw that to do such things as
eating up people was in the nature of the beast, which could never be
taught good manners.
But what made them mad beyond measure was the trick which the monster
often played upon them by breaking the river banks, and the dykes
which with great toil they had built to protect their crops. Then the
waters overflowed all their farms, ruined their gardens and spoiled
their cow houses and stables.
This sort of mischief the Afang liked to play, especially about the
time when the oat and barley crops were ripe and ready to be gathered
to make cakes and flummery; that is sour oat-jelly, or pap. So it
often happened that the children had to do without their cookies and
porridge during the winter. Sometimes the floods rose so high as to
wash away the houses and float the cradles. Even those with little
babies in them were often seen on the raging waters, and sent dancing
on the waves down the river, to the sea.
Once in a while, a mother cat and all her kittens were seen mewing for
help, or a lady dog howling piteously. Often it happened that both
puppies and kittens were drowned.
So, whether for men or mothers, pussies or puppies, the Cymric men
thought the time had come to stop this monster's mischief. It was bad
enough that people should be eaten up, but to have all their crops
ruined and animals drowned, so that they had to go hungry all winter,
with only a little fried fish, and no turnips, was too much for human
patience. There were too many weeping mothers and sorrowful fathers,
and squalling brats and animals whining for something to eat.
Besides, if all the oats were washed away, how could their wives make
flummery, without which, no Cymric man is ever happy? And where would
they get seed for another year's sowing? And if there were no cows,
how could the babies or kitties live, or any grown-up persons get
Someone may ask, why did not some brave man shoot the Afang, with a
poisoned arrow, or drive a spear into him under the arms, where the
flesh was tender, or cut off his head with a sharp sword?
The trouble was just here. There were plenty of brave fellows, ready
to fight the monster, but nothing made of iron could pierce that hide
of his. This was like armor, or one of the steel battleships of our
day, and the Afang always spit out fire or poison breath down the
road, up which a man was coming, long before the brave fellow could
get near him. Nothing would do, but to go up into his lair, and drag
But what man or company of men was strong enough to do this, when a
dozen giants in a gang, with ropes as thick as a ship's hawser, could
hardly tackle the job?
Nevertheless, in what neither man nor giant could do, a pretty maiden
might succeed. True, she must be brave also, for how could she know,
but if hungry, the Afang might eat her up?
However, one valiant damsel, of great beauty, who had lots of
perfumery and plenty of pretty clothes, volunteered to bind the
monster in his lair. She said, "I'm not afraid." Her sweetheart was
named Gadern, and he was a young and strong hunter. He talked over the
matter with her and they two resolved to act together.
Gadern went all over the country, summoning the farmers to bring their
ox teams and log chains. Then he set the blacksmiths to work, forging
new and especially heavy ones, made of the best native iron, from the
mines, for which Wales is still famous.
Meanwhile, the lovely maiden arrayed herself in her prettiest clothes,
dressed her hair in the most enticing way, hanging a white blossom on
each side, over her ears, with one flower also at her neck.
When she had perfumed her garments, she sallied forth and up the lake
where the big bog and the waters were and where the monster hid
While the maiden was still quite a distance away, the terrible Afang,
scenting his visitor from afar, came rushing out of his lair. When
very near, he reared his head high in the air, expecting to pounce on
her, with his iron clad claws and at one swallow make a breakfast of
But the odors of her perfumes were so sweet, that he forgot what he
had thought to do. Moreover, when he looked at her, he was so taken
with unusual beauty, that he flopped at once on his forefeet. Then he
behaved just like a lovelorn beau, when his best girl comes near. He
ties his necktie and pulls down his coat and brushes off the collar.
So the Afang began to spruce up. It was real fun to see how a monster
behaves when smitten with love for a pretty girl. He had no idea how
funny he was.
The girl was not at all afraid, but smoothed the monster's back,
stroked and played with its big moustaches and tickled its neck until
the Afang's throat actually gurgled with a laugh. Pretty soon he
guffawed, for he was so delighted.
When he did this, the people down in the valley thought it was
thunder, though the sky was clear and blue.
The maiden tickled his chin, and even put up his whiskers in curl
papers. Then she stroked his neck, so that his eyes closed. Soon she
had gently lulled him to slumber, by singing a cradle song, which her
mother had taught her. This she did so softly, and sweetly, that in a
few minutes, with its head in her lap, the monster was sound asleep
and even began to snore.
Then, quietly, from their hiding places in the bushes, Gadern and his
men crawled out. When near the dreaded Afang, they stood up and
sneaked forward, very softly on tip toe. They had wrapped the links of
the chain in grass and leaves, so that no clanking was heard. They
also held the oxen's yokes, so that nobody or anything could rattle,
or make any noise. Slowly but surely they passed the chain over its
body, in the middle, besides binding the brute securely between its
fore and hind legs.
All this time, the monster slept on, for the girl kept on crooning her
When the forty yoke of oxen were all harnessed together, the drovers
cracked all their whips at once, so that it sounded like a clap of
thunder and the whole team began to pull together.
Then the Afang woke up with a start.
The sudden jerk roused the monster to wrath, and its bellowing was
terrible. It rolled round and round, and dug its four sets of toes,
each with three claws, every one as big as a plowshare, into the
ground. It tried hard to crawl into its lair, or slip into the lake.
Finding that neither was possible, the Afang looked about, for some
big tree to wrap its tail around. But all his writhings or plungings
were of no use. The drovers plied their whips and the oxen kept on
with one long pull together and forward. They strained so hard, that
one of them dropped its eye out. This formed a pool, and to this day
they call it The Pool of the Ox's Eye. It never dries up or overflows,
though the water in it rises and falls, as regularly as the tides.
For miles over the mountains the sturdy oxen hauled the monster. The
pass over which they toiled and strained so hard is still named the
Pass of the Oxen's Slope. When going down hill, the work of dragging
the Afang was easier.
In a great hole in the ground, big enough to be a pond, they dumped
the carcass of the Afang, and soon a little lake was formed. This
uncanny bit of water is called "The Lake of the Green Well." It is
considered dangerous for man or beast to go too near it. Birds do not
like to fly over the surface, and when sheep tumble in, they sink to
the bottom at once.
If the bones of the Afang still lie at the bottom, they must have sunk
down very deep, for the monster had no more power to get out, or to
break the river banks. The farmers no longer cared anything about the
creature, and they hardly every think of the old story, except when a
sheep is lost.
As for Gadern and his brave and lovely sweetheart, they were married
and lived long and happily. Their descendants, in the thirty-seventh
generation, are proud of the grand exploit of their ancestors, while
all the farmers honor his memory and bless the name of the lovely girl
that put the monster asleep.
THE TWO CAT WITCHES
In old days, it was believed that the seventh son, in a family of
sons, was a conjurer by nature. That is, he could work wonders like
the fairies and excel the doctors in curing diseases.
If he were the seventh son of a seventh son, he was himself a wonder
of wonders. The story ran that he could even cure the "shingles,"
which is a very troublesome disease. It is called also by a Latin
name, which means a snake, because, as it gets worse, it coils itself
around the body.
Now the eagle can attack the serpent and conquer and kill this
poisonous creature. To secure such power, Hugh, the conjurer, ate the
flesh of eagles. When he wished to cure the serpent-disease, he
uttered words in the form of a charm which acted as a talisman and
cure. After wetting the red rash, which had broken out over the sick
person's body, he muttered:
"He-eagle, she-eagle, I send you over nine seas, and over nine
mountains, and over nine acres of moor and fen, where no dog shall
bark, no cow low, and no eagle shall higher rise."
After that, the patient was sure that he felt better.
There was always great rivalry between these conjurers and those who
made money from the Pilgrims at Holy Wells and visitors to the relic
shrines, but this fellow, named Hugh, and the monks, kept on mutually
good terms. They often ate dinner together, for Hugh was a great
traveler over the whole country and always had news to tell to the
holy brothers who lived in cells.
One night, as he was eating supper at an inn, four men came in and sat
down at the table with him. By his magical power, Hugh knew that they
were robbers and meant to kill him that night, in order to get his
So, to divert their attention, Hugh made something like a horn to grow
up out of the table, and then laid a spell on the robbers, so that
they were kept gazing at the curious thing all night long, while he
went to bed and slept soundly.
When he rose in the morning, he paid his bill and went away, while the
robbers were still gazing at the horn. Only when the officers arrived
to take them to prison did they come to themselves.
Now at Bettws-y-Coed-that pretty place which has a name that sounds so
funny to us Americans and suggests a girl named Betty the Co-ed at
college--there was a hotel, named the "Inn of Three Kegs." The shop
sign hung out in front. It was a bunch of grapes gilded and set below
three small barrels.
This inn was kept by two respectable ladies, who were sisters.
Yet in that very hotel, several travelers, while they were asleep, had
been robbed of their money. They could not blame anyone nor tell how
the mischief was done. With the key in the keyhole, they had kept
their doors locked during the night. They were sure that no one had
entered the room. There were no signs of men's boots, or of anyone's
footsteps in the garden, while nothing was visible on the lock or
door, to show that either had been tampered with. Everything was in
order as when they went to bed.
Some people doubted their stories, but when they applied to Hugh the
conjurer, he believed them and volunteered to solve the mystery. His
motto was "Go anywhere and everywhere, but catch the thief."
When Hugh applied one night for lodging at the inn, nothing could be
more agreeable than the welcome, and fine manners of his two
At supper time, and during the evening, they all chatted together
merrily. Hugh, who was never at a loss for news or stories, told about
the various kinds of people and the many countries he had visited, in
imagination, just as if he had seen them all, though he had never set
foot outside of Wales.
When he was ready to go to bed, he said to the ladies:
"It is my custom to keep a light burning in my room, all night, but I
will not ask for candles, for I have enough to last me until sunrise."
So saying, he bade them good night.
Entering his room and locking the door, he undressed, but laid his
clothes near at hand. He drew his trusty sword out of its sheath and
laid it upon the bed beside him, where he could quickly grasp it. Then
he pretended to be asleep and even snored.
It was not long before, peeping between his eyelids, only half closed,
he saw two cats come stealthily down the chimney.
When in the room, the animals frisked about, and then gamboled and
romped in the most lively way. Then they chased each other around the
bed, as if they were trying to find out whether Hugh was asleep.
Meanwhile, the supposed sleeper kept perfectly motionless. Soon the
two cats came over to his clothes and one of them put her paw into the
pocket that contained his purse.
At this, with one sweep of his sword, Hugh struck at the cat's paw.
The beast howled frightfully, and both animals ran for the chimney and
disappeared. After that, everything was quiet until breakfast time.
At the table, only one of the sisters was present. Hugh politely
inquired after the other one. He was told that she was not well, for
which Hugh said he was very sorry.
After the meal, Hugh declared he must say good-by to both the sisters,
whose company he had so enjoyed the night before. In spite of the
other lady's many excuses, he was admitted to the sick lady's room.
After polite greetings and mutual compliments, Hugh offered his hand
to say "good-by." The sick lady smiled at once and put out her hand,
but it was her left one.
"Oh, no," said Hugh, with a laugh. "I never in all my life have taken
any one's left hand, and, beautiful as yours is, I won't break my
habit by beginning now and here."
Reluctantly, and as if in pain, the sick lady put out her hand. It was
The mystery was now cleared up. The two sisters were cats.
By the help of bad fairies they had changed their forms and were the
Hugh seized the hand of the other sister and made a little cut in it,
from which a few drops of blood flowed, but the spell was over.
"Henceforth," said Hugh, "you are both harmless, and I trust you will
both be honest women."
And they were. From that day they were like other women, and kept one
of the best of those inns--clean, tidy, comfortable and at modest
prices--for which Wales is, or was, noted.
Neither as cats with paws, nor landladies, with soaring bills, did
they ever rob travelers again.
HOW THE CYMRY LAND BECAME INHABITED
In all Britain to-day, no wolf roams wild and the deer are all tame.
Yet in the early ages, when human beings had not yet come into the
land, the swamps and forests were full of very savage animals. There
were bears and wolves by the thousand besides lions and the woolly
rhinoceros, tigers, with terrible teeth like sabres.
Beavers built their dams over the little rivers, and the great horned
oxen were very common. Then the mountains were higher, and the woods
denser. Many of the animals lived in caves, and there were billions of
bees and a great many butterflies. In the bogs were ferns of giant
size, amid which terrible monsters hid that were always ready for a
fight or a frolic.
In so beautiful a land, it seemed a pity that there were no men and
women, no boys or girls, and no babies.
Yet the noble race of the Cymry, whom we call the Welsh, were already
in Europe and lived in the summer land in the South. A great
benefactor was born among them, who grew up to be a wonderfully wise
man and taught his people the use of bows and arrows. He made laws, by
which the different tribes stopped their continual fighting and
quarrels, and united for the common good of all. He persuaded them to
take family names. He invented the plow, and showed them how to use
it, making furrows, in which to plant grain.
When the people found that they could get things to eat right out of
the ground, from the seed they had planted, their children were wild
No people ever loved babies more than these Cymry folk and it was they
who invented the cradle. This saved the hard-working mothers many a
burden, for each woman had, besides rearing the children, to work for
and wait on her husband.
He was the warrior and hunter, and she did most of the labor, in both
the house and the field. When there were many little brats to look
after, a cradle was a real help to her. In those days, "brat" was the
general name for little folks. There were good laws, about women
especially for their protection. Any rough or brutish fellow was fined
heavily, or publicly punished, for striking one of them.
By and by, this great benefactor encouraged his people to the brave
adventure, and led them, in crossing the sea to Britain. Men had not
yet learned to build boats, with prow or stern, with keels and masts,
or with sails, rudders, or oars, or much less to put engines in their
bowels, or iron chimneys for smoke stacks, by which we see the mighty
ships driven across the ocean without regard to wind or tide.
This great benefactor taught his people to make coracles, and on these
the whole tribe of thousands of Cymric folk crossed over into Britain,
landing in Cornwall. The old name of this shire meant the Horn of
Gallia, or Wallia, as the new land was later named. We think of
Cornwall as the big toe of the Mother Land. These first comers called
it a horn.
It was a funny sight to see these coracles, which they named after
their own round bodies. The men went down to the riverside or the sea
shore, and with their stone hatchets, they chopped down trees. They
cut the reeds and osiers, peeled the willow branches, and wove great
baskets shaped like bowls. In this work, the women helped the men.
The coracle was made strong by a wooden frame fixed inside round the
edge, and by two cross boards, which also served as seats. Then they
turned the wicker frame upside down and stretched the hides of animals
over the whole frame and bottom. With pitch, gum, or grease, they
covered up the cracks or seams. Then they shaped paddles out of wood.
When the coracle floated on the water, the whole family, daddy, mammy,
kiddies, and any old aunts or uncles, or granddaddies, got into it.
They waited for the wind to blow from the south over to the northern
At first the coracle spun round and round, but by and by each daddy
could, by rowing or paddling, make the thing go straight ahead. So
finally all arrived in the land now called Great Britain.
Though sugar was not then known, or for a thousand years later, the
first thing they noticed was the enormous number of bees. When they
searched, they found the rock caves and hollow trees full of honey,
which had accumulated for generations. Every once in a while the
bears, that so like sweet things, found out the hiding place of the
bees, and ate up the honey. The children were very happy in sucking
the honey comb and the mothers made candles out of the beeswax. The
new comers named the country Honey Island.
The brave Cymry men had battles with the darker skinned people who
were already there. When any one, young or old, died, their friends
and relatives sat up all night guarding the body against wild beasts
or savage men. This grew to be a settled custom and such a meeting was
called a "wake." Everyone present did keep awake, and often in a very
As the Cymry multiplied, they built many _don_, or towns. All
over the land to-day are names ending in _don_ like London, or
Croydon, showing where these villages were.
But while occupied in things for the body, their great ruler did not
neglect matters of the mind. He found that some of his people had good
voices and loved to sing. Others delighted in making poetry. So he
invented or improved the harp, and fixed the rules of verse and song.
Thus ages before writing was known, the Cymry preserved their history
and handed down what the wise ones taught.
Men might be born, live and die, come and go, like leaves on the
trees, which expand in the springtime and fall in the autumn; but
their songs, and poetry, and noble language never die. Even to-day,
the Cymry love the speech of their fathers almost as well as they love
their native land.
Yet things were not always lovely in Honey Land, or as sweet as sugar.
As the tribes scattered far apart to settle in this or that valley,
some had fish, but no salt, and others had plenty of salt, but no
fish. Some had all the venison and bear meat they wanted, but no
barley or oats. The hill men needed what the men on the seashore could
supply. From their sheep and oxen they got wool and leather, and from
the wild beasts fur to keep warm in winter. So many of them grew
expert in trade. Soon there were among them some very rich men who
were the chiefs of the tribes.
In time, hundreds of others learned how to traffic among the tribes
and swap, or barter their goods, for as yet there were no coins for
money, or bank bills. So they established markets or fairs, to which
the girls and boys liked to go and sell their eggs and chickens, for
when the wolves and foxes were killed off, sheep and geese multiplied.
But what hindered the peace of the land, were the feuds, or quarrels,
because the men of one tribe thought they were braver, or better
looking, than those in the other tribe. The women were very apt to
boast that they wore their clothes--which were made of fox and weasel
skins--more gracefully than those in the tribe next to them.
So there was much snarling and quarreling in Cymric Land. The people
were too much like naughty children, or when kiddies are not taught
good manners, to speak gently and to be kind one to the other.
One of the worst quarrels broke out, because in one tribe there were
too many maidens and not enough young men for husbands. This was bad
for the men, for it spoiled them. They had too many women to wait on
them and they grew to be very selfish.
In what might be the next tribe, the trouble was the other way. There
were too many boys, a surplus of men, and not nearly enough girls to
go round. When any young fellow, moping out his life alone and anxious
for a wife, went a-courting in the next tribe, or in their vale, or on
their hill top, he was usually driven off with stones. Then there was
a quarrel between the two tribes.
Any young girl, who sneaked out at night to meet her young man of
another clan, was, when caught, instantly and severely spanked. Then,
with her best clothes taken off, she had to stand tied to a post in
the market place a whole day. Her hair was pulled down in disorder,
and all the dogs were allowed to bark at her. The girls made fun of
the poor thing, while they all rubbed one forefinger over the other,
pointed at her and cried, "Fie, for shame!" while the boys called her
If it were known that the young man who wanted a wife had visited a
girl in the other tribe, his spear and bow and arrows were taken away
from him till the moon was full. The other boys and the girls treated
him roughly and called him hard names, but he dare not defend himself
and had to suffer patiently. This was all because of the feud between
the two tribes.
This went on until the maidens in the valley, who were very many,
while yet lovely and attractive, became very lonely and miserable;
while the young men, all splendid hunters and warriors, multiplied in
the hill country. They were wretched in mind, because not one could
get a wife, for all the maidens in their own tribe were already
engaged, or had been mated.
One day news came to the young men on the hill top, that the valley
men were all off on a hunting expedition. At once, without waiting a
moment, the poor lonely bachelors plucked up courage. Then, armed with
ropes and straps, they marched in a body to the village in the valley
below. There, they seized each man a girl, not waiting for any maid to
comb her hair, or put on a new frock, or pack up her clothes, or carry
any thing out of her home, and made off with her, as fast as one pair
of legs could move with another pair on top.
At first, this looked like rough treatment--for a lovely girl, thus to
be strapped to a brawny big fellow; but after a while, the girls
thought it was great fun to be married and each one to have a man to
caress, and fondle, and scold, and look for, and boss around; for each
wife, inside of her own hut was quite able to rule her husband. Every
one of these new wives was delighted to find a man who cared so much
for her as to come after her, and risk his life to get her, and each
one admired her new, brave husband.
Yet the brides knew too well that their men folks, fathers and
brothers, uncles and cousins, would soon come back to attempt their
And this was just what happened. When a runner brought, to the valley
men now far away, the news of the rape of their daughters, the hunters
at once ceased chasing the deer and marched quickly back to get the
girls and make them come home.
The hill men saw the band of hunters coming after their daughters.
They at once took their new wives into a natural rocky fortress, on
the top of a precipice, which overlooked the lake.
This stronghold had only one entrance, a sort of gateway of rocks, in
front of which was a long steep, narrow path. Here the hill men stood,
to resist the attack and hold their prizes.
It was a case of a very few defenders, assaulted by a multitude, and
the battle was long and bloody. The hill men scorned to surrender and
shot their arrows and hurled their javelins with desperate valor. They
battled all day from sunrise until the late afternoon, when shadows
began to lengthen. The stars, one by one came out and both parties,
after setting sentinels, lay down to rest.
In the morning, again, charge after charge was made. Sword beat
against shield and helmet, and clouds of arrows were shot by the
archers, who were well posted in favorable situations, on the rocks.
Long before noon, the field below was dotted and the narrow pass was
choked with dead bodies. In the afternoon, after a short rest and
refreshed with food, the valley men, though finding that only four of
the hill fighters were alive, stood off at a distance and with their
long bows and a shower of arrows left not one to breathe.
Now, thought the victors, we shall get our maidens back again. So,
taking their time to wash off the blood and dust, to bind up their
wounds, and to eat their supper, they thought it would be an easy job
to load up all the girls on their ox-carts and carry them home.
But the valley brides, thus suddenly made widows, were too true to
their brave husbands. So, when they had seen the last of their lovers
quiet in death, they stripped off all their ornaments and fur robes,
until all stood together, each clad in her own innocence, as pure in
their purpose as if they were a company of Druid priestesses.
Then, chanting their death song, they marched in procession to the
tall cliff, that rose sheer out of the water. One by one, each
uttering the name of her beloved, leaped into the waves.
Men at a distance, knowing nothing of the fight, and sailors and
fishermen far off on the water, thought that a flock of white birds
were swooping down from their eyrie, into the sea to get their food
from the fishes. But when none rose up above the waters, they
understood, and later heard the whole story of the valor of the men
and the devotion of the women.
The solemn silence of night soon brooded over the scene.
The men of the valley stayed only long enough to bury their own dead.
Then they marched home and their houses were filled with mourning. Yet
they admired the noble sacrifice of their daughters and were proud of
them. Afterwards they raised stone monuments on the field of
To-day, this water is called the Lake of the Maidens, and the great
stones seen near the beach are the memorials marking the place of the
slain in battle.
During many centuries, the ancient custom of capturing the bride, with
resistance from her male relatives, was vigorously kept up. In the
course of time, however, this was turned into a mimic play, with much
fun and merriment. Yet, the girls appear to like it, and some even
complain if it is not rough enough to seem almost real.
THE BOY THAT WAS NAMED TROUBLE
In one of the many "Co-eds," or places with this name, in ancient and
forest-covered Wales, there was a man who had one of the most
beautiful mares in all the world. Yet great misfortunes befell both
this Co-ed mare and her owner.
Every night, on the first of May, the mare gave birth to a pretty
little colt. Yet no one ever saw, or could ever tell what became of
any one, or all of the colts. Each and all, and one by one, they
disappeared. Nobody knew where they were, or went, or what had become
At last, the owner, who had no children, and loved little horses,
determined not to lose another. He girded on his sword, and with his
trusty spear, stood guard all night in the stable to catch the mortal
robber, as he supposed he must be.
When on this same night of May first, the mare foaled again, and the
colt stood up on its long legs, the man greatly admired the young
creature. It looked already, as if it could, with its own legs, run
away and escape from any wolf that should chase it, hoping to eat it
But at this moment, a great noise was heard outside the stable. The
next moment a long arm, with a claw at the end of it, was poked
through the window-hole, to seize the colt.
Instantly the man drew his sword and with one blow, the claw part of
the arm was cut off, and it dropped inside, with the colt.
Hearing a great cry and tumult outside, the owner of the mare rushed
forth into the darkness. But though he heard howls of pain, he could
see nothing, so he returned.
There, at the door, he found a baby, with hair as yellow as gold,
smiling at him. Besides its swaddling clothes, it was wrapped up in
As it was still night, the man took the infant to his bed and laid it
alongside of his wife, who was asleep.
Now this good woman loved children, though she had none of her own,
and so when she woke up in the morning, and saw what was beside her,
she was very happy. Then she resolved to pretend that it was her own.
So she told her women, that she had borne the child, and they called
him Gwri of the Golden Hair.
The boy baby grew up fast, and when only two years old, was as strong
as most children are at six.
Soon he was able to ride the colt that had been born on the May night,
and the two were as playmates together.
Now it chanced, the man had heard the tale of Queen Rhiannon, wife of
Powell, Prince of Dyfed. She had become the mother of a baby boy, but
it was stolen from her at night.
The six serving women, whose duty it was to attend to the Queen, and
guard her child, were lazy and had neglected their duty. They were
asleep when the baby was stolen away. To excuse themselves and be
saved from punishment, they invented a lying story. They declared that
Rhiannon had devoured the child, her own baby.
The wise men of the Court believed the story which the six wicked
women had told, and Rhiannon, the Queen, though innocent, was
condemned to do penance. She was to serve as a porter to carry
visitors and their baggage from out doors into the castle.
Every day, for many months, through the hours of daylight, she stood
in public disgrace in front of the castle of Narberth, at the stone
block, on which riders on horses dismounted from the saddle. When
anyone got off at the gate, she had to carry him or her on her back
into the hall.
As the boy grew up, his foster father scanned his features closely,
and it was not long before he made up his mind that Powell was his
father and Rhiannon was his mother.
One day, with the boy riding on his colt, and with two knights keeping
him company, the owner of the Co-ed mare came near the castle of
There they saw the beautiful Rhiannon sitting on the horse block at
When they were about to dismount from their horses, the lovely woman
spoke to them thus:
"Chieftains, go no further thus. I will carry everyone of you on my
back, into the palace."
Seeing their looks of astonishment, she explained:
"This is my penance for the charge brought against me of slaying my
son and devouring him."
One and all the four refused to be carried and went into the castle on
their own feet. There Powell, the prince, welcomed them and made a
feast in their honor. It being night, Rhiannon sat beside him.
After dinner when the time for story telling had come, the chief guest
told the tale of his mare and the colt, and how he cut the clawed
hand, and then found the boy on the doorstep.
Then to the joy and surprise of all, the owner of the Co-ed mare,
putting the golden-haired boy before Rhiannon, cried out:
"Behold lady, here is thy son, and whoever they were who told the
story and lied about your devouring your own child, have done you a
Everyone at the table looked at the boy, and all recognized the lad at
once as the child of Powell and Rhiannon.
"Here ends my trouble (pryderi)," cried out Rhiannon.
Thereupon one of the chiefs said:
"Well hast thou named thy child 'Trouble,'" and henceforth Pryderi was
Soon it was made known, by the vision and word of the bards and seers,
that all the mischief had been wrought by wicked fairies, and that the
six serving women had been under their spell, when they lied about the
Queen. Powell, the castle-lord, was so happy that he offered the man
of Co-ed rich gifts of horses, jewels and dogs.
But this good man felt repaid in delivering a pure woman and loving
mother from undeserved shame and disgrace, by wisdom and honesty
according to common duty.
As for Pryderi, he was educated as a king's son ought to be, in all
gentle arts and was trained in all manly exercises.
After his father died, Pryderi became ruler of the realm. He married
Kieva the daughter of a powerful chieftain, who had a pedigree as long
as the bridle used to drive a ten-horse chariot. It reached back to
Prince Casnar of Britain.
Pryderi had many adventures, which are told in the Mabinogian, which
is the great storehouse of Welsh hero, wonder, and fairy tales.
THE GOLDEN HARP
Morgan is one of the oldest names in Cymric land. It means one who
lives near the sea.
Every day, for centuries past, tens of thousands of Welsh folks have
looked out on the great blue plain of salt water.
It is just as true, also, that there are all sorts of Morgans. One of
these named Taffy, was like nearly all Welshmen, in that he was very
fond of singing.
The trouble in his case, however, was that no one but himself loved to
hear his voice, which was very disagreeable. Yet of the sounds which
he himself made with voice or instrument, he was an intense admirer.
Nobody could persuade him that his music was poor and his voice rough.
He always refused to improve.
Now in Wales, the bard, or poet, who makes up his poetry or song as he
goes along, is a very important person, and it is not well to offend
one of these gentlemen. In French, they call such a person by a very
long name--the improvisator.
These poets have sharp tongues and often say hard things about people
whom they do not like. If they used whetstones, or stropped their
tongues on leather, as men do their razors, to give them a keener
edge, their words could not cut more terribly.
Now, on one occasion, Morgan had offended one of these bards. It was
while the poetic gentleman was passing by Taffy's house. He heard the
jolly fellow inside singing, first at the top and then at the bottom
of the scale. He would drop his voice down on the low notes and then
again rise to the highest until it ended in a screech.
Someone on the street asked the poet how he liked the music which he
had heard inside.
"Music?" replied the bard with a sneer. "Is that what Morgan is
trying? Why! I thought it was first the lowing of an aged cow, and
then the yelping of a blind dog, unable to find its way. Do you call
The truth was that when the soloist had so filled himself with strong
ale that his brain was fuddled, then it was hard to tell just what
kind of a noise he was making. It took a wise man to discover the
tune, if there was any.
One evening, when Morgan thought his singing unusually fine, and felt
sorry that no one heard him, he heard a knock.
[Illustration: THE MORE MORGAN PLAYED, THE MADDER THE DANCE]
Instead of going to the door to inquire, or welcome the visitor, he
yelled out "Come in!"
The door opened and there stood three tired looking strangers. They
appeared to be travelers. One of them said:
"Kind sir, we are weary and worn, and would be glad of a morsel of
bread. If you can give us a little food, we shall not trouble you
"Is that all?" said Morgan. "See there the loaf and the cheese, with a
knife beside them. Take what you want, and fill your bags. No man
shall ever say that Taffy Morgan denied anyone food, when he had any
Whereupon the three travelers sat down and began to eat.
Meanwhile, without being invited to do so, their host began to sing
Now the three travelers were fairies in disguise. They were journeying
over the country, from cottage to cottage, visiting the people. They
came to reward all who gave them a welcome and were kind to them, but
to vex and play tricks upon those who were stingy, bad tempered, or of
sour disposition. Turning to Taffy before taking leave, one of them
"You have been good to us and we are grateful. Now what can we do for
you? We have power to grant anything you may desire. Please tell us
what you would like most."
At this, Taffy looked hard in the faces of the three strangers, to see
if one of them was the bard who had likened his voice in its ups and
downs to a cow and a blind dog. Not seeing any familiar face, he
plucked up his courage, and said:
"If you are not making fun of me, I'll take from you a harp. And, if I
can have my wish in full, I want one that will play only lively tunes.
No sad music for me!"
Here Morgan stopped. Again he searched their faces, to see if they
were laughing at him and then proceeded.
"And something else, if I can have it; but it's really the same thing
I am asking for."
"Speak on, we are ready to do what you wish," answered the leader.
"I want a harp, which, no matter how badly I may play, will sound out
sweet and jolly music."
"Say no more," said the leader, who waved his hand. There was a flood
of light, and, to Morgan's amazement, there stood on the floor a
But where were the three travelers? They had disappeared in a flash.
Hardly able to believe his own eyes, it now dawned upon him that his
visitors were fairies.
He sat down, back of the harp, and made ready to sweep the strings. He
hardly knew whether or not he touched the instrument, but there rolled
out volumes of lively music, as if the harp itself were mad. The tune
was wild and such as would set the feet of young folks agoing, even in
As Taffy's fingers seemed every moment to become more skillful, the
livelier the music increased, until the very dishes rattled on the
cupboard, as if they wanted to join in. Even the chair looked as if
about to dance.
Just then, Morgan's wife and some neighbors entered the house.
Immediately, the whole party, one and all, began dancing in the
jolliest way. For hours, they kept up the mad whirl. Yet all the
while, Taffy seemed happier and the women the merrier.
No telegraph ever carried the news faster, all over the region, that
Morgan had a wonderful harp.
All the grass in front of the house, was soon worn away by the crowds,
that came to hear and dance. As soon as Taffy touched the harp
strings, the feet of everyone, young and old, began shuffling, nor
could anyone stop, so long as Morgan played. Even very old, lame and
one-legged people joined in. Several old women, whom nobody had ever
prevailed upon to get out of their chairs, were cured of their
rheumatism. Such unusual exercise was severe for them, but it seemed
to be healthful.
A shrewd monk, the business manager of the monastery near by, wanted
to buy Morgan's house, set up a sanatarium and advertise it as a holy
place. He hoped thus to draw pilgrims to it and get for it a great
reputation as a healing place for the lame and the halt, the palsied
and the rheumatic. Thus the monastery would be enriched and all the
monks get fat.
But Taffy was a happy-go-lucky fellow, who cared little about money
and would not sell; for, with his harp, he enjoyed both fun and fame.
One day, in the crowd that stood around his door waiting to begin to
hop and whirl, Morgan espied the bard who had compared his voice to a
cow and a cur. The bard had come to see whether the stories about the
harp were true or not.
He found to his own discomfort what was the fact and the reality,
which were not very convenient for him. As soon as the harp music
began, his feet began to go up, and his legs to kick and whirl. The
more Morgan played, the madder the dance and the wilder the antics of
the crowd, and in these the bard had to join, for he could not help
himself. Soon they all began to spin round and round on the flagstones
fronting the door, as if crazy. They broke the paling of the garden
fence. They came into the house and knocked over the chairs and sofa,
even when they cracked their shins against the wood. They bumped their
heads against the walls and ceiling, and some even scrambled over the
roof and down again. The bard could no more stop his weary legs than
could the other lunatics.
To Morgan his revenge was so sweet, that he kept on until the bard's
legs snapped, and he fell down on top of people that had tumbled from
shear weariness, because no more strength was left in them.
Meanwhile, Morgan laughed until his jaws were tired and his stomach
But no sooner did he take his fingers off the strings, to rest them,
than he opened his eyes in wonder; for in a flash the harp had
He had made a bad use of the fairies' gift, and they were displeased.
So both the monk and Morgan felt sorry.
Yet the grass grew again when the quondam harper and singer ceased
desolating the air with his quavers. The air seemed sweeter to
breathe, because of the silence.
However, the fairies kept on doing good to the people of good will,
and to-day some of the sweetest singers in Wales come from the poorest
THE GREAT RED DRAGON OF WALES
Every old country that has won fame in history and built up a
civilization of its own, has a national flower. Besides this, some
living creature, bird, or beast, or, it may be, a fish is on its flag.
In places of honor, it stands as the emblem of the nation; that is, of
the people, apart from the land they live on. Besides flag and symbol,
it has a motto. That of Wales is: "Awake: It is light."
Now because the glorious stories of Wales, Scotland and Ireland have
been nearly lost in that of mighty England, men have at times, almost
forgotten about the leek, the thistle, and the shamrock, which stand
for the other three divisions of the British Isles.
Yet each of these peoples has a history as noble as that of which the
rose and the lion are the emblems. Each has also its patron saint and
civilizer. So we have Saint George, Saint David, Saint Andrew, and
Saint Patrick, all of them white-souled heroes. On the union flag, or
standard of the United Kingdom, we see their three crosses.
The lion of England, the harp of Ireland, the thistle of Scotland, and
the Red Dragon of Wales represent the four peoples in the British
Isles, each with its own speech, traditions, and emblems; yet all in
unity and in loyalty, none excelling the Welsh, whose symbol is the
Red Dragon. In classic phrase, we talk of Albion, Scotia, Cymry, and
But why red? Almost all the other dragons in the world are white, or
yellow, green or purple, blue, or pink. Why a fiery red color like
that of Mars?
Borne on the banners of the Welsh archers, who in old days won the
battles of Crecy and Agincourt, and now seen on the crests on the town
halls and city flags, in heraldry, and in art, the red dragon is as
rampant, as when King Arthur sat with His Knights at the Round Table.
The Red Dragon has four three-toed claws, a long, barbed tongue, and
tail ending like an arrow head. With its wide wings unfolded, it
guards those ancient liberties, which neither Saxon, nor Norman, nor
German, nor kings on the throne, whether foolish or wise, have ever
been able to take away. No people on earth combine so handsomely loyal
freedom and the larger patriotism, or hold in purer loyalty to the
union of hearts and hands in the British Empire, which the sovereign
represents, as do the Welsh.
The Welsh are the oldest of the British peoples. They preserve the
language of the Druids, bards, and chiefs, of primeval ages which go
back and far beyond any royal line in Europe, while most of their
fairy tales are pre-ancient and beyond the dating.
Why the Cymric dragon is red, is thus told, from times beyond human
It was in those early days, after the Romans in the south had left the
island, and the Cymric king, Vortigern, was hard pressed by the Picts
and Scots of the north. To his aid, he invited over from beyond the
North Sea, or German Ocean, the tribes called the Long Knives, or
Saxons, to help him.
But once on the big island, these friends became enemies and would not
go back. They wanted to possess all Britain.
Vortigern thought this was treachery. Knowing that the Long Knives
would soon attack him, he called his twelve wise men together for
their advice. With one voice, they advised him to retreat westward
behind the mountains into Cymry. There he must build a strong fortress
and there defy his enemies.
So the Saxons, who were Germans, thought they had driven the Cymry
beyond the western borders of the country which was later called
England, and into what they named the foreign or Welsh parts.
Centuries afterwards, this land received the name of Wales.
People in Europe spoke of Galatians, Wallachians, Belgians, Walloons,
Alsatians, and others as "Welsh." They called the new fruit imported
from Asia walnuts, but the names "Wales" and "Welsh" were unheard of
until after the fifth century.
The place chosen for the fortified city of the Cymry was among the
mountains. From all over his realm, the King sent for masons and
carpenters and collected the materials for building. Then, a solemn
invocation was made to the gods by the Druid priests. These grand
looking old men were robed in white, with long, snowy beards falling
over their breasts, and they had milk-white oxen drawing their
chariot. With a silver knife they cut the mistletoe from the
tree-branch, hailing it as a sign of favor from God. Then with harp,
music and song they dedicated the spot as a stronghold of the Cymric
Then the King set the diggers to work. He promised a rich reward to
those men of the pick and shovel who should dig the fastest and throw
up the most dirt, so that the masons could, at the earliest moment,
begin their part of the work.
But it all turned out differently from what the king expected. Some
dragon, or powerful being underground, must have been offended by this
invasion of his domain; for, the next morning, they saw that
everything in the form of stone, timber, iron or tools, had
disappeared during the night. It looked as if an earthquake had
swallowed them all up.
Both king and seers, priests and bards, were greatly puzzled at this.
However, not being able to account for it, and the Saxons likely to
march on them at any time, the sovereign set the diggers at work and
again collected more wood and stone.
This time, even the women helped, not only to cook the food, but to
drag the logs and stones. They were even ready to cut off their
beautiful long hair to make ropes, if necessary.
But in the morning, all had again disappeared, as if swept by a
tempest. The ground was bare.
Nevertheless, all hands began again, for all hearts were united.
For the third time, the work proceeded. Yet when the sun rose next
morning, there was not even a trace of either material or labor.
What was the matter? Had some dragon swallowed everything up?
Vortigern again summoned his twelve wise men, to meet in council, and
to inquire concerning the cause of the marvel and to decide what was
to be done.
After long deliberation, while all the workmen and people outside
waited for their verdict, the wise men agreed upon a remedy.
Now in ancient times, it was a custom, all over the world, notably in
China and Japan and among our ancestors, that when a new castle or
bridge was to be built, they sacrificed a human being. This was done
either by walling up the victim while alive, or by mixing his or her
blood with the cement used in the walls. Often it was a virgin or a
little child thus chosen by lot and made to die, the one for the many.
The idea was not only to ward off the anger of the spirits of the air,
or to appease the dragons under ground, but also to make the workmen
do their best work faithfully, so that the foundation should be sure
and the edifice withstand the storm, the wind, and the earthquake
So, nobody was surprised, or raised his eyebrows, or shook his head,
or pursed up his lips, when the king announced that what the wise men
declared, must be done and that quickly. Nevertheless, many a mother
hugged her darling more closely to her bosom, and fathers feared for
their sons or daughters, lest one of these, their own, should be
chosen as the victim to be slain.
King Vortigern had the long horn blown for perfect silence, and then
"A child must be found who was born without a father. He must be
brought here and be solemnly put to death. Then his blood will be
sprinkled on the ground and the citadel will be built securely."
Within an hour, swift runners were seen bounding over the Cymric
hills. They were dispatched in search of a boy without a father, and a
large reward was promised to the young man who found what was wanted.
So into every part of the Cymric land, the searchers went.
One messenger noticed some boys playing ball. Two of them were
quarreling. Coming near, he heard one say to the other:
"Oh, you boy without a father, nothing good will ever happen to you."
"This must be the one looked for," said the royal messenger to
himself. So he went up to the boy, who had been thus twitted and spoke
to him thus:
"Don't mind what he says." Then he prophesied great things, if he
would go along with him. The boy was only too glad to go, and the next
day the lad was brought before King Vortigern.
The workmen and their wives and children, numbering thousands, had
assembled for the solemn ceremony of dedicating the ground by shedding
the boy's blood. In strained attention the people held their breath.
The boy asked the king:
"Why have your servants brought me to this place?"
Then the sovereign told him the reason, and the boy asked:
"Who instructed you to do this?"
"My wise men told me so to do, and even the sovereign of the land
obeys his wise councilors."
"Order them to come to me, Your Majesty," pleaded the boy.
When the wise men appeared, the boy, in respectful manner, inquired of
"How was the secret of my life revealed to you? Please speak freely
and declare who it was that discovered me to you."
Turning to the king, the boy added:
"Pardon my boldness, Your Majesty. I shall soon reveal the whole
matter to you, but I wish first to question your advisers. I want them
to tell you what is the real cause, and reveal, if they can, what is
hidden here underneath the ground."
But the wise men were confounded. They could not tell and they fully
confessed their ignorance.
The boy then said:
"There is a pool of water down below. Please order your men to dig for
At once the spades were plied by strong hands, and in a few minutes
the workmen saw their faces reflected, as in a looking glass. There
was a pool of clear water there.
Turning to the wise men, the boy asked before all:
"Now tell me, what is in the pool?"
As ignorant as before, and now thoroughly ashamed, the wise men were
"Your Majesty, I can tell you, even if these men cannot. There are two
vases in the pool."
Two brave men leaped down into the pool. They felt around and brought
up two vases, as the boy had said.
Again, the lad put a question to the wise men:
"What is in these vases?"
Once more, those who professed to know the secrets of the world, even
to the demanding of the life of a human being, held their tongues.
"There is a tent in them," said the boy. "Separate them, and you will
find it so."
By the king's command, a soldier thrust in his hand and found a folded
Again, while all wondered, the boy was in command of the situation.
Everything seemed so reasonable, that all were prompt and alert to
"What a splendid chief and general, he would make, to lead us against
our enemies, the 'Long Knives!'" whispered one soldier to another.
"What is in the tent?" asked the boy of the wise men.
Not one of the twelve knew what to say, and there was an almost
"I will tell you, Your Majesty, and all here, what is in this tent.
There are two serpents, one white and one red. Unfold the tent."
With such a leader, no soldier was afraid, nor did a single person in
the crowd draw back? Two stalwart fellows stepped forward to open the
But now, a few of the men and many of the women shrank back while
those that had babies, or little folks, snatched up their children,
fearing lest the poisonous snakes might wriggle towards them.
The two serpents were coiled up and asleep, but they soon showed signs
of waking, and their fiery, lidless eyes glared at the people.
"Now, Your Majesty, and all here, be you the witnesses of what will
happen. Let the King and wise men look in the tent."
At this moment, the serpents stretched themselves out at full length,
while all fell back, giving them a wide circle to struggle in.
Then they reared their heads. With their glittering eyes flashing
fire, they began to struggle with each other. The white one rose up
first, threw the red one into the middle of the arena, and then
pursued him to the edge of the round space.
Three times did the white serpent gain the victory over the red one.
But while the white serpent seemed to be gloating over the other for a
final onset, the red one, gathering strength, erected its head and
struck at the other.
The struggle went on for several minutes, but in the end the red
serpent overcame the white, driving it first out of the circle, then
from the tent, and into the pool, where it disappeared, while the
victorious red one moved into the tent again.
When the tent flap was opened for all to see, nothing was visible
except a red dragon; for the victorious serpent had turned into this
great creature which combined in one new form the body and the powers
of bird, beast, reptile and fish. It had wings to fly, the strongest
animal strength, and could crawl, swim, and live in either water or
air, or on the earth. In its body was the sum total of all life.
Then, in the presence of all the assembly, the youth turned to the
wise men to explain the meaning of what had happened. But not a word
did they speak. In fact, their faces were full of shame before the
"Now, Your Majesty, let me reveal to you the meaning of this mystery."
"Speak on," said the King, gratefully.
"This pool is the emblem of the world, and the tent is that of your
kingdom. The two serpents are two dragons. The white serpent is the
dragon of the Saxons, who now occupy several of the provinces and
districts of Britain and from sea to sea. But when they invade our
soil our people will finally drive them back and hold fast forever
their beloved Cymric land. But you must choose another site, on which
to erect your castle."
After this, whenever a castle was to be built no more human victims
were doomed to death. All the twelve men, who had wanted to keep up
the old cruel custom, were treated as deceivers of the people. By the
King's orders, they were all put to death and buried before all the
To-day, like so many who keep alive old and worn-out notions by means
of deception and falsehood, these men are remembered only by the
Twelve Mounds, which rise on the surface of the field hard by.
As for the boy, he became a great magician, or, as we in our age would
call him, a man of science and wisdom, named Merlin. He lived long on
the mountain, but when he went away with a friend, he placed all his
treasures in a golden cauldron and hid them in a cave. He rolled a
great stone over its mouth. Then with sod and earth he covered it all
over so as to hide it from view. His purpose was to leave this his
wealth for a leader, who, in some future generation, would use it for
the benefit of his country, when most needed.
This special person will be a youth with yellow hair and blue eyes.
When he comes to Denas, a bell will ring to invite him into the cave.
The moment his foot is over the place, the stone of entrance will open
of its own accord. Anyone else will be considered an intruder and it
will not be possible for him to carry away the treasure.
THE TOUCH OF CLAY
Long, long ago before the Cymry came into the beautiful land of Wales,
there were dark-skinned people living in caves.
In these early times there were a great many fairies of all sorts, but
of very different kinds of behavior, good and bad.
It was in this age of the world that fairies got an idea riveted into
their heads which nothing, not even hammers, chisels or crowbars can
pry up. Neither horse power, nor hydraulic force nor sixteen-inch
bombs, nor cannon balls, nor torpedoes can drive it out.
It is a settled matter of opinion in fairy land that, compared with
fairies, human beings are very stupid. The fairies think that mortals
are dull witted and awfully slow, when compared to the smarter and
more nimble fairies, that are always up to date in doing things.
Perhaps the following story will help explain why this is.
These ancient folks who lived in caves, could not possibly know some
things that are like A B C to the fairies of to-day. For the Welsh
fairies, King Puck and Queen Mab, know all about what is in the
telegraphs, submarine cables and wireless telegraphy of to-day. Puck
would laugh if you should say that a telephone was any new thing to
him. Long ago, in Shakespeare's time, he boasted that he could "put a
girdle round the earth in forty minutes." Men have been trying ever
since to catch up with him, but they have not gone ahead of him yet.
If, only three hundred years ago, this were the case, what must have
been Puck's fun, when he saw men in the early days, working so hard to
make even a clay cup or saucer. These people who slept and ate in cave
boarding-houses, knew nothing of metals, or how to make iron or brass
tools, wire, or machines, or how to touch a button and light up a
whole room, which even a baby can now do.
There is one thing that we, who have traveled in many fairy lands,
have often noticed and told our friends, the little folks, and that is
All the fairies we ever knew are very slow to change either their
opinions, or their ways, or their fashions. Like many mortals, they
think a great deal of their own notions. They imagine that the only
way to do a thing is in that which they say is the right one.
So it came to pass that even when the Cymric folk gave up wearing the
skins of animals, and put on pretty clothes woven on a loom, and ate
out of dishes, instead of clam shells, there were still some fairies
that kept to the notions and fashions of the cave days. To one of
these, came trouble because of this failing.
Now there was once a pretty nymph, who lived in the Red Lake, to which
a young and handsome farmer used to come to catch fish. One misty day,
when the lad could see only a few feet before him, a wind cleared the
air and blew away the fog. Then he saw near him a little old man,
standing on a ladder. He was hard at work in putting a thatched roof
on a hut which he had built.
A few minutes later, as the mist rose and the breezes blew, the farmer
could see no house, but only the ripplings of water on the lake's
Although he went fishing often, he never again saw anything unusual,
during the whole summer.
On one hot day in the early autumn, while he stopped to let his horse
drink, he looked and saw a very lovely face on the water. Wondering to
whom it might belong, there rose up before him the head and shoulders
of a most beautiful woman. She was so pretty that he had two tumbles.
He fell off his horse and he fell in love with her at one and the same
Rushing toward the lovely vision, he put out his arms at that spot
where he had seen her, but only to embrace empty air. Then he
remembered that love is blind. So he rubbed his eyes, to see if he
could discern anything. Yet though he peered down into the water, and
up over the hills, he could not see her anywhere.
But he soon found out to his joy that his eyes were all right, for in
another place, the face, flower-crowned hair, and her reflection in
the water came again. Then his desire to possess the damsel was
doubled. But again, she disappeared, to rise again somewhere else.
Five times he was thus tantalized and disappointed. She rose up, and
It seemed as though she meant only to tease him. So he rode home
sorrowing, and scarcely slept that night.
Early morning, found the lovelorn youth again at the lake side, but
for hours he watched in vain. He had left his home too excited to have
eaten his usual breakfast, which greatly surprised his housekeeper.
Now he pulled out some sweet apples, which a neighbor had given him,
and began to munch them, while still keeping watch on the waters.
No sooner had the aroma of the apples fallen on the air, than the
pretty lady of the lake bobbed up from beneath the surface, and this
time quite near him. She seemed to have lost all fear, for she asked
him to throw her one of the apples.
"Please come, pretty maid, and get it yourself," cried the farmer.
Then he held up the red apple, turning it round and round before her,
to tempt her by showing its glossy surface and rich color.
Apparently not afraid, she came up close to him and took the apple
from his left hand. At once, he slipped his strong right arm around
her waist, and hugged her tight. At this, she screamed loudly.
Then there appeared in the middle of the lake the old man, he had seen
thatching the roof by the lake shore. This time, besides his long
snowy beard, he had on his head a crown of water lilies.
"Mortal," said the venerable person. "That is my daughter you are
clasping. What do you wish to do with her?"
At once, the farmer broke out in passionate appeal to the old man that
she might become his wife. He promised to love her always, treat her
well, and never be rough or cruel to her.
The old father listened attentively. He was finally convinced that the
farmer would make a good husband for his lovely daughter. Yet he was
very sorry to lose her, and he solemnly laid one condition upon his
He was never under any pretense, or in any way, to strike her with
clay, or with anything made or baked from clay. Any blow with that
from which men made pots and pans, and jars and dishes, or in fact,
with earth of any sort, would mean the instant loss of his wife. Even
if children were born in their home, the mother would leave them, and
return to fairy land under the lake, and be forever subject to the law
of the fairies, as before her marriage.
The farmer was very much in love with his pretty prize, and as
promises are easily made, he took oath that no clay should ever touch
They were married and lived very happily together. Years passed and
the man was still a good husband and lover. He kept up the habit which
he had learned from a sailor friend. Every night, when far from home
and out on the sea, he and his mates used to drink this toast;
"Sweethearts and wives: may every sweetheart become a wife and every
wife remain a sweetheart, and every husband continue a lover."
So he proved that though a husband he was still a lover, by always
doing what she asked him and more. When the children were born and
grew up, their father told them about their mother's likes and
dislikes, her tastes and her wishes, and warned them always to be
careful. So it was altogether a very happy family.
One day, the wife and mother said to her husband, that she had a great
longing for apples. She would like to taste some like those which he
long ago gave her. At once, the good man dropped what he was doing and
hurried off to his neighbor, who had first presented him with a
trayful of these apples.
The farmer not only got the fruit, but he also determined that he
would plant a tree and thus have apples for his wife, whenever she
wanted them. So he bought a fine young sapling, to set in his orchard,
for the children to play under and to keep his pantry full of the fine
red-cheeked fruit. At this his wife was delighted.
So happy enough--in fact, too merry to think of anything else, they,
both husband and wife, proceeded to set the sapling in the ground. She
held the tree, while he dug down to make the hole deep enough to make
sure of its growing.
But farmers are sometimes very superstitious. They even believe in
luck, though not in Puck. Some of them have faith in what the almanac,
and the patent medicine may say, and in planting potatoes according to
the moon, but they scout the idea of there being any fairies.
With the farmer, this had become a fixed state of mind and now it
brought him to grief, as we shall see. For though he remembered what
his wife liked and disliked, and recalled what her father had told
him, he had forgotten that she was a fairy.
With this farmer and other Welsh mortals, it had become a habit, when
planting a young tree, to throw the last shovelful of earth over the
left shoulder. This was for good luck. The farmer was afraid to break
such a good custom, as he thought it to be.
So merrily he went to work, forgetting everything in his adherence to
habit. He became so absorbed in his job, that he did not look where
his spadeful went, and it struck his dear wife full in the breast.
At that moment, she cried out bitterly, not in pain, but in sorrow.
Then she started to run towards the lake. At the shore, she called
out, "Good-by, dear, dear husband." Then, leaping into the water, she
was never seen again and all his tears and those of the children never
brought her back.
THE TOUCH OF IRON
Ages ago, before the Cymry rowed in their coracles across the sea,
there was a race of men already in the Land of Honey, as Great Britain
was then called.
These ancient people, who lived in caves, did not know how to build
houses or to plow the ground. They had no idea that they could get
their food out of the earth. As for making bread and pies, cookies and
goodies, from what grew from the soil, they never heard of such a
thing. They were not acquainted with the use of fire for melting
copper, nor did they know how to get iron out of the ore, to make
knives and spears, arrow heads and swords, and armor and helmets.
All they could do was to mold clay, so as to make things to cook with
and hold milk, or water. When they baked this soft stuff in the fire,
they found they had pots, pans and dishes as hard as stone, though
these were easily broken.
To hunt the deer, or fight the wolves and bears, they fashioned clubs
of wood. For javelins and arrows, they took hard stone like flint and
chipped it to points and sharpened it with edges. This was the time
which men now call the Stone Age. When the men went to war, their
weapons were wholly of wood or stone.
They had not yet learned to weave the wool of the sheep into warm
clothing, but they wore the skins of animals. Each one of the caves,
in which they lived, was a general boarding house, for dogs and pigs,
as well as people.
When a young man of one tribe wanted a wife, he sallied out secretly
into another neighborhood. There he lay in wait for a girl to come
along. He then ran away with her, and back to his own daddy's cave.
By and by, when the Cymry came into the land, they had iron tools and
better weapons of war. Then there were many and long battles and the
aborigines were beaten many times.
So the cave people hated everything made of iron. Anyone of the cave
people, girls or boys, who had picked up iron ornaments, and were
found wearing or using iron tools, or buying anything of iron from the
cave people's enemies, was looked upon as a rascal, or a villain, or
even as a traitor and was driven out of the tribe.
However, some of the daughters of the cave men were so pretty and had
such rosy cheeks, and lovely bodies, and beautiful, long hair, that
quite often the Cymric youth fell in love with them.
Many of the cave men's daughters were captured and became wives of the
Cymry and mothers of children. In course of ages, their descendants
helped to make the bright, witty, song-loving Welsh people.
Now the fairies usually like things that are old, and they are very
slow to alter the ancient customs, to which they have been used; for,
in the fairy world, there is no measure of time, nor any clocks,
watches, or bells to strike the hours, and no almanacs or calendars.
The fairies cannot understand why ladies change the fashions so often,
and the men their ways of doing things. They wonder why beards are
fashionable at one time; then, moustaches long or short, at another;
or smooth faces when razors are cheap. Most fairies like to keep on
doing the same thing in the old way. They enjoy being like the
mountains, which stand; or the sea, that rolls; or the sun, that rises
and sets every day and forever. They never get tired of repeating
to-morrow what they did yesterday. They are very different from the
people that are always wanting something else, and even cry if they
cannot have it.
That is the reason why the fairies did not like iron, or to see men
wearing iron hats and clothes, called helmets and armor, when they
went to war. They no more wanted to be touched by iron than by filth,
or foul disease. They hated knives, stirrups, scythes, swords, pots,
pans, kettles, or this metal in any form, whether sheet, barbed wire,
lump or pig iron.
Now there was a long, pretty stretch of water, near which lived a
handsome lad, who loved nothing better than to go out on moonlight
nights and see the fairies dance, or listen to their music. This youth
fell in love with one of these fairies, whose beauty was great beyond
description. At last, unable to control his passion, he rushed into
the midst of the fairy company, seized the beautiful one, and rushed
back to his home, with his prize in his arms. This was in true
cave-man fashion. When the other fairies hurried to rescue her, they
found the man's house shut. They dared not touch the door, for it was
covered over with iron studs and bands, and bolted with the metal
which they most abhorred.
The young man immediately began to make love to the fairy maid, hoping
to win her to be his wife. For a long time she refused, and moped all
day and night. While weeping many salt water tears, she declared that
she was too homesick to live.
Nevertheless the lover persevered. Finding herself locked in with iron
bars, while gratings, bolts and creaking hinges were all about her,
and unable to return to her people, the fairy first thought out a plan
of possible escape. Then she agreed to become the man's wife. She
resolved, at least, that, without touching it, she should oil all the
iron work, and stop the noise.
She was a smart fairy, and was sure she could outwit the man, even if
he were so strong, and had every sort of iron everywhere in order to
keep her as it were in a prison. So, pretending she loved him dearly,
she said: "I will not be your wife, but, if you can find out my name,
I shall gladly become your servant."
"Easily won," thought the lover to himself. Yet the game was a harder
one to play than he supposed. It was like playing Blind Man's Buff, or
Hunt the Slipper. Although he made guesses of every name he could
think of, he was never "hot" and got no nearer to the thing sought
than if his eyes were bandaged. All the time, he was deeper and deeper
in love with the lovely fairy maid.
But one night, on returning home, he saw in a turf bog, a group of
fairies sitting on a log. At once, he thought, they might be talking
about their lost sister. So he crept up quite near them, and soon
found that he had guessed right. After a long discussion, finding
themselves still at a loss, as to how to recover her, he heard one of
them sigh and say, "Oh, Siwsi, my sister, how can you live with a
"Enough," said the young man to himself. "I've got it." Then, crawling
away noiselessly, he ran back all the way to his house, and unlocked
the door. Once inside the room, he called out his servant's
Astonished at hearing her name, she cried out, "What mortal has
betrayed me? For, surely no fairy would tell on me? Alas, my fate, my
But in her own mind, the struggle and the fear were over. She had
bravely striven to keep her fairyhood, and in the battle of wits, had
She would not be wife, but what a wise, superb and faithful servant
Everything prospered under her hand. The house and the farm became
models. Not twice, but three times a day, the cows, milked by her,
yielded milk unusually rich in cream. In the market, her butter
excelled, in quality and price, all others.
Meanwhile, the passion of the lover abated not one jot, or for an
instant. His perseverance finally won. She agreed to become his wife;
but only on one condition.
"You must never strike me with iron," she said. "If you do, I'll feel
free to leave you, and go back to my relatives in the fairy family."
A hearty laugh from the happy lover greeted this remark, made by the
lovely creature, once his servant, but now his betrothed. He thought
that the condition was very easy to obey.
So they were married, and no couple in all the land seemed to be
happier. Once, twice, the cradle was filled. It rocked with new
treasures that had life, and were more dear than farm, or home, or
wealth in barns or cattle, cheese and butter. A boy and a girl were
theirs. Then the mother's care was unremitting, day and night.
Even though the happy father grew richer every year, and bought farm
after farm, until he owned five thousand acres, he valued, more than
these possessions, his lovely wife and his beautiful children.
Yet this very delight and affection made him less vigilant; yes, even
less careful concerning the promise he had once given to his fairy
wife, who still held to the ancient ideas of the Fairy Family in
regard to iron.
One of his finest mares had given birth to a filly, which, when the
day of the great fair came, he determined to sell at a high price.
So with a halter on his arm, he went out to catch her.
But she was a lively creature, so frisky that it was much like his
first attempt to win his fairy bride. It almost looked as if she were
a cave girl running away from a lover, who had a lasso in his hand.
The lively and frolicsome beast scampered here and there, grazing as
she stopped, as if she were determined to put off her capture as long
So, calling to his wife, the two of them together, tried their skill
to catch the filly. This time, leaving the halter in the house, the
man took bit and bridle, and the two managed to get the pretty
creature into a corner; but, when they had almost captured her, away
she dashed again.
By this time, the man was so vexed that he lost his temper; and he who
does that, usually loses the game, while he who controls the wrath
within, wins. Mad as a flaming fire, he lost his brains also and threw
bit and bridle and the whole harness after the fleet animal.
Alas! alas! the wife had started to run after the filly and the iron
bit struck her on the cheek. It did not hurt, but he had broken his
Now came the surprise of his life. It was as if, at one moment, a
flash of lightning had made all things bright; and then in another
second was inky darkness. He saw this lovely wife, one moment active
and fleet as a deer. In another, in the twinkling of an eye, nothing
was there. She had vanished. After this, there was a lonely home,
empty of its light and cheer.
But by living with human beings, a new idea and form of life had
transformed this fairy, and a new spell was laid on her. Mother-love
had been awakened in her heart. Henceforth, though the law of the
fairy world would not allow her to touch again the realm of earth,
she, having once been wife and parent, could not forget the babies
born of her body. So, making a sod raft, a floating island, she came
up at night, and often, while these three mortals lived, this fairy
mother would spend hours tenderly talking to her husband and her two
children, who were now big boy and girl, as they stood on the lake
On his part, the father did not think it "an ideal arrangement," as
some modern married folks do, to be thus separated, wife and husband,
one from the other; but by her coming as near as could be allowed, she
showed her undying love. Even to-day, good people sometimes see a
little island floating on the lake, and this, they point out as the
place where the fairy mother was wont to come and hold converse with
her dear ones. When they merrily eat the pink delicacy, called
"floating island," moving it about with a spoon on its yellow lake of
eggs and cream, they call this "the Fairy Mother's rocking chair."
THE MAIDEN OF THE GREEN FOREST
Many a palace lies under the waves that wash Cymric land, for the sea
has swallowed up more than one village, and even cities.
When Welsh fairies yield to their mortal lovers and consent to become
their wives, it is always on some condition or promise. Sometimes
there are several of these, which the fairy ladies compel their mortal
lovers to pledge them, before they agree to become wives. In fact, the
fairies in Cymric land are among the most exacting of any known.
A prince named Benlli, of the Powys region, found this out to his
grief, for he had always supposed that wives could be had simply for
the asking. All that a man need say, to the girl to whom he took a
fancy, was this: "Come along with me, and be my bride," and then she
would say, "Thank you, I'll come," and the two would trot off
together. This was the man's notion.
Now Benlli was a wicked old fellow. He was already married, but
wrinkles had gathered on his wife's face. She had a faded, washed-out
look, and her hair was thinning out. She would never be young again,
and he was tired of her, and wanted a mate with fresh rosy cheeks, and
long, thick hair. He was quite ready to fall in love with such a
maiden, whenever his eyes should light upon her.
One day, he went out hunting in the Green Forest. While waiting for a
wild boar to rush out, there rode past him a young woman whose beauty
was dazzling. He instantly fell in love with her.
The next day, while on horseback, at the same opening in the forest,
the same maiden reappeared; but it was only for a moment, and then she
Again, on the third day, the prince rode out to the appointed place,
and again the vision of beauty was there. He rode up to her and begged
her to come and live with him at his palace.
"I will come and be your wedded wife on three conditions: You must put
away the wife you now have; you must permit me to leave you, one night
in every seven, without following after or spying upon me; and you
must not ask me where I go or what I do. Swear to me that you will do
these three things. Then, if you keep your promises unbroken, my
beauty shall never change, no, not until the tall vegetable flag-reeds
wave and the long green rushes grow in your hall."
The Prince of Powys was quite ready to swear this oath and he solemnly
promised to observe the three conditions. So the Maid of the Green
Forest went to live with him.
"But what of his old wife?" one asks.
Ah! he had no trouble from that quarter, for when the newly-wedded
couple arrived at the castle, she had already disappeared.
Happy, indeed, were the long bright days, which the prince and his new
bride spent together, whether in the castle, or out doors, riding on
horseback, or in hunting the deer. Every day, her beauty seemed
diviner, and she more lovely. He lavished various gifts upon her,
among others that of a diadem of beryl and sapphire. Then he put on
her finger a diamond ring worth what was a very great sum--a king's
ransom. In the Middle Ages, monarchs as well as nobles were taken
prisoners in battle and large amounts of money had to be paid to get
them back again. So a king's ransom is what Benlli paid for his wife's
diamond ring. He loved her so dearly that he never suspected for a
moment that he would ever have any trouble in keeping his three
But without variety, life has no spice, and monotony wearies the soul.
After nine years had passed, and his wife absented herself every
Friday night, he began to wonder why it could be. His curiosity, to
know the reason for her going away, so increased that it so wore on
him that he became both miserable in himself and irritable toward
others. Everybody in the castle noticed the change in their master,
and grieved over it.
One night, he invited a learned monk from the white monastery, not far
away, to come and take dinner with him. The table in the great
banqueting hall was spread with the most delicious viands, the lights
were magnificent, and the music gay.
But Wyland, the monk, was a man of magic and could see through things.
He noticed that some secret grief was preying upon the Prince's mind.
He discerned that, amidst all this splendor, he, Benlli, the lord of
the castle, was the most miserable person within its walls. So Wyland
went home, resolved to call again and find out what was the trouble.
When they met, some days later, Wyland's greeting was this:
"Christ save thee, Benlli! What secret sorrow clouds thy brow? Why so
Benlli at once burst out with the story of how he met the Maid of the
Green Forest, and how she became his wife on three conditions.
"Think of it," said Benlli, groaning aloud. "When the owls cry and the
crickets chirp, my wife leaves my bed, and until the daystar appears,
I lie alone, torn with curiosity, to know where she is, and what she
is doing. I fall again into heavy sleep, and do not awake until
sunrise, when I find her by my side again. It is all such a mystery,
that the secret lies heavy on my soul. Despite all my wealth, and my
strong castle, with feasting and music by night and hunting by day, I
am the most miserable man in Cymric land. No beggar is more wretched
Wyland, the monk, listened and his eyes glittered. There came into his
head the idea of enriching the monastery. He saw his chance, and
improved it at once. He could make money by solving the secret for a
"Prince Benlli," said he, "if you will bestow upon the monks of the
White Minster, one tenth of all the flocks that feed within your
domain, and one tenth of all that flows into the vaults of your
palace, and hand over the Maiden of the Green Forest to me, I shall
warrant that your soul will be at peace and your troubles end."
To all this, Prince Benlli agreed, making solemn promise. Then the
monk Wyland took his book, leather bound, and kept shut by means of
metal clasps, and hid himself in the cranny of a rock near the Giant's
Cave, from which there was entrance down into Fairyland.
He had not long to wait, for soon, with a crown on her head, a lady,
royally arrayed, passed by out of the silvery moonlight into the dark
cave. It was none other than the Maiden of the Green Forest.
Now came a battle of magic and spells, as between the monk's own and
those of the Green Forest Maiden. He moved forward to the mouth of the
cave. Then summoning into his presence the spirits of the air and the
cave, he informed them as to Benlli's vow to enrich the monastery, and
to deliver the Green Forest Maiden to himself. Then, calling aloud, he
"Let her forever be, as she now appears, and never leave my side."
"Bring her, before the break of day, to the cross near the town of the
White Minster, and there will I wed her, and swear to make her my
Then, by the power of his magic, he made it impossible for any person
or power to recall or hinder the operation of these words. Leaving the
cave's mouth, in order to be at the cross, before day should dawn, the
first thing he met was a hideous ogress, grinning and rolling her
bleared red eyes at him. On her head seemed what was more like moss,
than hair. She stretched out a long bony finger at him. On it, flashed
the splendid diamond, which Benlli had given his bride, the beautiful
Maid of the Green Forest.
"Take me to thy bosom, monk Wyland," she shrieked, laughing hideously
and showing what looked like green snags in her mouth. "For I am the
wife you are sworn to wed. Thirty years ago, I was Benlli's blooming
bride. When my beauty left me, his love flew out of the window. Now I
am a foul ogress, but magic makes me young again every seventh night.
I promised that my beauty should last until the tall flag reeds and
the long green rushes grow in his hall."
Amazed at her story, Wyland drew in his breath.
"And this promise, I have kept. It is already fulfilled. Your spell
and mine are both completed. Yours brought to him the peace of the
dead. Mine made the river floods rush in. Now, waters lap to and fro
among the reeds and rushes that grow in the banqueting hall, which is
now sunk deep below the earth. With the clash of our spells, no charm
can redress our fate.
"Come then and take me as thy bride, for oath and spell have both
decreed it as thy reward. As Benlli's promise to you is fulfilled, for
the waters flow in the palace vaults, the pike and the dare (fish)
So, caught in his own dark, sordid plot, the monk, who played
conjurer, had become the victim of his own craft.
They say that Wyland's Cross still recalls the monk, while fishermen
on the Welsh border, can, on nights with smooth water, see towers and
chimneys far below, sunk deep beneath the waves.
THE TREASURE STONE OF THE FAIRIES
The Gruffyds were one of the largest of the Welsh tribes. To-day, it
is said that in Britain one man in every forty has this, as either his
first, middle, or last name. It means "hero" or "brave man," and as
far back as the ninth century, the word is found in the Book of Saint
The monks, who derived nearly every name from the Latin, insisted the
word meant Great Faith.
Another of the most common of Welsh personal names was William; which,
when that of a father's son, was written Williams and was only the
Latin for Gild Helm, or Golden Helmet.
Long ago, when London was a village and Cardiff only a hamlet, there
was a boy of this name, who tended sheep on the hill sides. His father
was a hard working farmer, who every year tried to coax to grow out of
the stony ground some oats, barley, leeks and cabbage. In summer, he
worked hard, from the first croak of the raven to the last hoot of the
owl, to provide food for his wife and baby daughter. When his boy was
born, he took him to the church to be christened Gruffyd, but every
body called him "Gruff." In time several little sisters came to keep
the boy company.
His mother always kept her cottage, which was painted pink, very neat
and pretty, with vines covering the outside, while flowers bloomed
indoors. These were set in pots and on shelves near the latticed
windows. They seemed to grow finely, because so good a woman loved
them. The copper door-sill was kept bright, and the broad borders on
the clay floor, along the walls, were always fresh with whitewash. The
pewter dishes on the sideboard shone as if they were moons, and the
china cats on the mantle piece, in silvery luster, reflected both sun
and candle light. Daddy often declared he could use these polished
metal plates for a mirror, when he shaved his face. Puss, the pet, was
always happy purring away on the hearth, as the kettle boiled to make
the flummery, of sour oat jelly, which, daddy loved so well.
Mother Gruffyd was always so neat, with her black and white striped
apron, her high peaked hat, with its scalloped lace and quilled
fastening around her chin, her little short shawl, with its pointed,
long tips, tied in a bow, and her bright red plaid petticoat folded
back from her frock. Her snowy-white, rolling collar and neck cloth